Amid a bird flue scare, shops selling poultry meat in the national capital on Friday claimed they have recorded a 20-25 per cent dip in sales over the last few weeks.
A Delhi government official on Friday said around 50 birds, mostly crows, have died in Dwarka, Mayur Vihar Phase-III and Hastsal in west Delhi in the last three to four days.
According to Poultry Federation of India president Ramesh Khatri said, "There has not been an outbreak of bird flu in broiler chicken anywhere in the country. Still, their prices have fallen at farm level by up to 50 per cent due to sentiments."
In north India, farm gate price of broiler chicken declined to Rs 50 per kg on Friday from Rs 100 per kg. Egg rates have also dropped to Rs 5 per piece from Rs 5.30 per piece, he said.
As a result, demand for chicken from restaurants and hotels has fallen sharply, he added.
Irshad Kureishi, general secretary of the Delhi Meat Merchants Association, said, "Ever since the news of bird flu came out, the chicken sales have gone down by at least 20 per cent.
"We understand that customers go in a state of panic and stop buying chicken as a precaution, but it is important to know that once cooked properly, there is no health risk," said
According to him, the dip in chicken prices from "Rs 200 per kg to Rs 150 per kg is a loss for both poultry farmers as well as the shopkeepers".
He added that the impact of bird flu scare on their business came while they were still dealing with the effects of COVID-19.
"We are yet to go back to our pre-COVID-19 business because the restaurants are no longer ordering meat in the same quantities. In weddings too, the requirements have significantly decreased, and now the bird flu news has only made things worse," he said.
To reassure their customers, Kureishi said the Delhi Meat Merchants Association has sent out a set of new guidelines to all their "6,000 licensed member meat shops" to ensure top notch hygiene practices.
"We issued a fresh set of guidelines to our members about keeping the shop clean, stocking only required amounts of meat, dealing with the fly menace and others," he said.
Poultry company Venky's (India) General Manager Prasanna Pedgaonkar said prices have fallen due to a panic reaction, adding that it is a temporary disruption and prices will see correction in the next 10-15 days,"
The price fall in broiler chicken varied in different cities. For instance, farm gate price of broiler chicken has declined to Rs 70 per kg on Friday from Rs 85 per kg a fortnight back, he said.
Pedgaonkar said there was a localised impact on prices in bird flu reported in four states due to the government measures.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had on Thursday said no cases of bird flu were reported in Delhi yet, but asked officials to keep a close watch on poultry birds coming in from neighbouring states to prevent any infection.
The Centre on Wednesday had said avian influenza or bird flu outbreak had been reported at 12 epicentres in Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, while Haryana is on high alert due to unusual mortality at poultry farms in Panchkula.
Ever since the bird flu scare began in Delhi, "every day has been a Tuesday", said Ravinder Pal Singh of Sardar, A Pure Meat Shop in Dwarka.
"The bird flu news has had a huge impact on our sales. We haven't sold practically any chicken since last week. It's like everyday is a Tuesday, when we keep our shop closed because people prefer not to consume meat on that day," he said, adding that all their 52 outlets across NCR are facing a similar situation.
Sisodia on Thursday at a meeting with officials of the animal husbandry unit of the Development Department took stock of the Delhi government's preparedness to prevent bird flu.
He also instructed them to maintain a strict vigil on birds at major bird sites, especially poultry markets, water bodies, zoos and other potential hotspots.
These include Ghazipur Fish and Poultry Market, Shakti Sthal Lake, Sanjay Lake, Bhalswa Horseshoe Lake, Delhi Zoo, and smaller water bodies in DDA parks among others.
Rahul Kashyap, owner of the Bharat Chicken Inn, said his 15-year-old shop in Nirman Vihar started seeing a noticeable decrease in the chicken prices post December 31.
"People have completely stopped buying chicken since the new year began. There has been at least a 90 per cent drop in sales. Business has been very bad. The only saving grace for us is that we don't have to pay rent," Kashyap said.
Earlier in the day, Delhi government officials said around 50 birds, mostly crows, have died in the national capital over the last three to four days, officials said on Friday.
"We received information about the death of crows in Dwarka and Mayur Vihar Phase 3 and of a few wild birds in Hastsal in West Delhi.
"However, it is yet to be ascertained if bird flu infection is the reason," Dr Rakesh Singh from the animal husbandry unit of the Development Department said.